my own best/worst critic

Sara Israel, May 7, 2010

I’ve spent some time today with a comfortable friend— my play, bad Art.

It will soon receive its second public reading, and I’ll be directing it as well, so suddenly I am wearing two caps at once.  This morning I worked my way through the script making special formatting changes for the actors and stage directions reader, changes I explicitly make for readings.  I’m happy to report that I was able to read from page 1 all the way through page 94 purely as that director, keeping my writer’s urges to tinker and edit and fret completely at bay.

As a director, I spend 99.9% of my time celebrating the text before me, reveling in its depths with the actors.  But as a writer, my goal is always to make my play better.  I think I have pretty critical eyes, ears, and instincts when it comes to assessing my own writing— which in some ways makes me my own best critic, and in other ways make me my own worst.

Even if they are still very much in development, as a director I choose only to work on plays that I truly love and feel like I truly “get.”  It pains me to admit it, but I feel this sharp slice of doubt. . . Has what I’ve created here as a playwright worthy of me as a director? I’ve had to quite literally remind myself of the wonderful and empowering feedback I’ve received from theater professionals, to remind myself that bad Art was named a semi-finalist for the Princess Grace Award.  It.  Is.  Worthy.

I’m curious to see how I balance improving what I have written (the playwright) and celebrating what I’ve written (the director) with the cast I have assembled.  I admire all of their work.  Some of them are long-term friends; some of them I’ve joyfully worked with before; some were strangers who I implored to hop on board.  They are all really smart and really honest, so no matter what, I know I’ll learn a heck of a lot.

My goal will be to sit back, listen closely, watch well— and enjoy. . . in some ways wearing both caps, in some ways wearing neither.

5 thoughts on “my own best/worst critic

  1. Your play and your blog fill me with pride at all you have accomplished. The challenge of wearing “two hats” is something I never considered. Your blog has given me a new appreciation of the author vs. the director.

  2. As someone who saw the first reading of Bad Art and LOVED it, I can honestly say – It. Is. Worthy – though I certainly appreciate the feeling of not being able to look objectively at your own writing while wearing a director’s cap. I’ve had to produce podcasts that contain my own reported features and it’s all I can do to not spend my entire time retooling and remixing my own work, though that clearly doesn’t serve the piece as a whole. In any case, I’m sure your actors will come through for you again and make you proud as both a writer AND director.

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